Chairs' Letter – March 2021On Wed, 31 March, 2021 - 15:23
Dear Order members and friends,
The main international College meeting is in November and this year we are also meeting for a weekend in March and July, as well as parallel gatherings in our individual College Kulas. (The Kula system is intentionally flexible, to allow for the different number of people training for ordination in different parts of the world, as well as the geographic spread of Public Preceptors in each Kula.)
Apart from the option of attending the regular Order Bodhicitta practice, our weekend meeting this month consisted of a ‘business meeting’; study on Vasubandhu’s Four Factors Giving Rise to Bodhicitta; and personal reminiscences from a few Public Preceptors on the theme of ‘Sangharakshita and the Gestalt’. We again ran each session twice, to allow for different combinations of people from different time zones.
The Order Bodhicitta practice sessions that Sunday were led by Vijayamala and Sugarbha, and I was delighted to introduce Sugarbha and rejoice in the fact that it was his email at the beginning of Covid lockdown in Barcelona, expressing a wish for the Order to come together in this way, that prompted a year of doing this practice together.
During the ‘business’ session of our meeting (and confirmed by those unable to be present) we agreed Yashodeva’s appointment as a Public Preceptor. As well as being an experienced Kalyanamitra and Private Preceptor, Yashodeva has been engaged in training for ordination in Spanish-speaking Triratna, and has spent time supporting the sangha in Venezuela; he is a welcome addition to the College. We also discussed several other potential new Public Preceptors, and hope to be able to move forward with these when we next meet in July.
I updated the College on responses received to the amended Eight Guidelines for Ordination Training, and would like to take the opportunity to stress that these are very much ‘guidelines’, and not definitive or obligatory, but likely to be a useful framework for reflection that corresponds to ordination training retreats.
We heard back from the College members liaising with the BIPOC strategy group on initiatives to encourage diversity within ordination training. The College Kula representatives now meet regularly between meetings, and are planning to pilot a workshop among themselves, inviting someone to lead an exploration of their experience of race.
The need for greater awareness of the ethics of private internet use is becoming more apparent, and this will be on the agenda of our November meeting. Saddhaloka filled us in on continuing discussions exploring the principles of Safeguarding / Order Ethics and also considerations of the implications of the ordination of former offenders.
One of the topics we’ve explored in the College in the past, is whether it is possible for us to be of ‘one mind’ or to have ‘one voice’ and to what extent – or whether – the Chair can speak for all Public Preceptors. Briefly, I would say that we aspire to carry out our responsibilities from a basis of harmony and shared ideals, as well as each being true to our understanding of principles. Practicing together, especially studying Dharma and sharing life experience, helps build the basis from which decisions are made. Feedback from the meeting was that people especially valued study led by Dhammarati, based on a section of the Bodhicittotpādasūtra’Sāstra; also the more personal sessions choreographed by Maitreyabandhu as a ‘ceremony of stories’, illuminating significant moments in people’s lives.
This month I’ve appreciated being invited to drop in on a US/Canada Order Day, and to join one of the monthly meetings of Bristol women training for ordination and Order members (using the framework of the Eight Guidelines to introduce myself and my practice).
I’ve always really enjoyed what used to be ‘FWBO Day’. I remember drawing closer to a large venue in London or Manchester, and experiencing the rising percentage of Order members in the surrounding population with a thrill of anticipation. This year Triratna Day will be online, hosted by Adhisthana in collaboration with others around the world; maybe we’ll crash the limits of zoom…